It’s 6:15 am and I’m in Redmond, my temporary nest, drinking coffee from a paper cup. I drove here straight from work and ate a bowl of pasta at the hotel bar, washed it down with a bee’s knees cocktail, and went to bed with a collection of stories by Mark Haddon and a back-up book on my Kindle. Already I miss my husband and my house, my feather pillow with its washed silk cover, my son, my dogs, my soy milk and Winco instant coffee. I miss the view from my window.
I don’t mean this to sound the way it does. I’m enduring no hardship here, and I have a day of solitary delights before me. I’ve sussed out two nearby bookstores and a shop that sells houseplants, as well as a comfy-looking cafe where I can sit for a while and write. This is a day of indulgence that my husband couldn’t enjoy, any more than I could have enjoyed a night in the cold, shouting with the crowd at a football game. We have different interests, different minds. It’s always been like this and it’s always been okay. I miss him, I love him, and I’m glad he isn’t here.
Because he isn’t here, I could get up at 3:14 and take a spiky-hot shower, turn on the lights one by one, play some newfound music he probably wouldn’t like. I won’t have to kill time waiting for him to wake up—he works the night shift, so our schedules do not align; actually, my schedule aligns with no one—or confer about whether to walk along the river or the other way through town. I can eat what I want, when I want, or not at all. I can read a book at breakfast, listen to a podcast, take a long nap. My husband wouldn’t complain about any of that, because he’s innately kind and only wants to please, but he wouldn’t enjoy it. He’s uninterested, but only in the way I am uninterested in the ongoing golf tournament he plays on his phone or the mystifying ranking system of college football. We have been married twenty-one years. We share a lot but not everything.
This has always been okay. Is it still? I’ve come to accept that he doesn’t read my stuff, yet I’ve set heart to paper throughout my writing life, so there will always be a part of me, the better part, that’s unknown to him by choice. That bores him. Yet I wouldn’t want his false attendance, with the boredom shoved down out of some misguided sense of duty. That would be a hundred times worse.
Still, because we don’t share an interest, a schedule, a bedroom, or a goal, we are beginning to drift. It’s a natural process, and not one I’m eager to change. Me shivering at a football game, him with aching jaw at my pages—I can’t see it, don’t crave it. When I hear about another couple’s close connection, my knee-jerk reaction is bafflement. How is this done? How do people join at the hip, share every meal, every inner thought? How do people talk so much? How do they fight? It’s a way of life that could only be performative for us and, if I’m honest, would expose my heart to the person who could most easily break it.
I’m not looking for more. Am I? And what about him? Is he getting what he needs or have I made him lonely with my solitary ways? Maybe it’s time to ask, and seek a true answer:
What about you?